Questioning the wisdom of Lambeth 2008

In his essay yesterday in the Daily Episcopalian, The Rt. Rev. Steven Charleston, president and dean of Episcopal Divinity School and former Bishop of Alaska, writes: “At their most recent diocesan convention, the people of Utah voted to request that the next Lambeth Conference be cancelled. In a nutshell, they expressed the opinion that no good could come from hosting Lambeth at this time.” As it happens, Archbishop Akinola agrees.

While discussing pros and cons Bishop Charleston appears to come down on side of cancellation:

Perhaps the most persuasive thing about the Utah suggestion is that it forces us to confront our own dysfunction. More meetings enable more silly behavior. The waffling of the Archbishop of Canterbury, the manipulation of meetings by some bishops, and the lame rhetoric of other bishops who have made a cottage industry out of doom and gloom prophecies has to be faced. For too long we have all been watching this soap opera called Anglican leadership and wondering when the adults would come back into the room to make the kids play nice.

That may not happen unless we take some serious steps. What the diocese of Utah raised is an idea for just this kind of wake up call and action.

The essay has generated comment at Father Jake, a place known for comment. Father Jake’s take is, “Not only is Lambeth a disaster just waiting to happen, it is a huge waste of resources. Let it go.”

Others favor going. Jim Naughton, editor of Episcopal Café, comments:

The ABC’s decision to invite all Episcopal bishops except Bishop Robinson, while deeply regrettable for its singular omission, was his way of settling the question of who, in his mind, speaks for American Anglicans–namely, the Episcopal Church and no one else. It would be a serious tactical mistake to give back this gift.

Additionally, the Episcopal bishops who attended the meeting that Trinity Church sponsored this summer in Spain met many African bishops who are willing to remain in Communion with us despite our differences. We’d be walking away from potentially beneficial conversations if we didn’t go to Lambeth, and simultaneously weakening leaders throughout the Communion who do not want to capitulate to Akinola/Minns/Jensen, etc.

There may come a point at which conscience requires abandoning the Anglican Communion, a day on which the short-term compromises required to retain our membership cannot be justified by the possibility of long term success. Anyone who has been involved in the fight for full inclusion has woken up on certain mornings and wondered if today would be that day. But I don’t think it has come yet, and I think our best shot at postponing it indefinitely rests in remaining fully involved with our partners in the Communion.

Commenting at the Daily Episcopalian Ian T. Douglas writes:

I’m afraid I have to strongly disagree with my President and Dean Bishop Charleston, as well as the Diocese of Utah, in their call to cancel the 2008 Lambeth Conference of bishops. Bishop Charleston’s position is based on the assertion that the 2008 Lambeth Conference will be similar to recent Lambeth Conferences in both form and function.

As a member of the Design Group for Lambeth 2008, I can say without hesitation that the planned conference for next summer will be very different from previous Lambeths. … As planned, there will be no plenary debates on divisive issues resulting in an atmosphere of winners and losers. That is not to say that the hard and difficult questions and issues before the Anglican Communion will be avoided. Rather the issues will be engaged in smaller gatherings where accountability, listening, and the search for mutual understanding are foremost.

I’m sad that Bishop Charleston is suggesting that bishops not go to Lambeth 2008 without considering what the Conference will and will not be….

Archbishop Akinola has disparagingly referred to the new form and function as a “jamboree.”

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